Watching the movie Lincoln yesterday with my family, it occurred to me that the Second Amendment is potentially the second fatal flaw in our nation's Constitution, the first being, of course, slavery. That our Founding Fathers were brilliant men, worthy of adulation for their accomplishments in forming the first truly great representative democracy in modern history, is without doubt. But ironically, these men who disabused themselves of the notion of blind faith, apparent most emphatically in their embracing of Deism, have themselves become subject to blind faith in their most important document. Because the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson laid the groundwork for what would become the greatest country on earth, we now see them as perfect creations, like gods whose works should never be altered.
But the truth, as we all know (and as they themselves knew), is different. The latter of the two mentioned above is especially scarred with pustular moral failings. At best he was a supreme hypocrite, at worst -- a raging sociopathic asshole. In our Bill of Rights, its inclusion an insistence by Jefferson to proceed with ratification of the Constitution, there are many rights that we, today, hold sacrosanct, such as freedom of speech and religion, and right to a trial of our peers if accused. Dubiously placed among these essential elements of justice is the Second Amendment. Its language, read by any layman, is vague in the extreme. (I am certainly not a lawyer, but our Constitution was theoretically written for farmers and carpenters to understand). It states enigmatically "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Until the Supreme Court's 2008 ruling against the city of Washington, D.C.'s hand gun law, this was not interpreted as an individual's right to bear arms. But now it is.
One thing our Founding Fathers generally agreed upon, and indeed most everyone agreed upon until our age of endless war began with World War II, was that a standing army is the quickest way to tyranny. So perhaps, by the wording of the 2nd Amendment, they intended for a well-regulated militia, in the absence of a standing army, to protect us in case we were invaded by, oh I don't know, Great Britain maybe? Or maybe Founders like Jefferson, in crafting the 2nd Amendment, were worried that if they didn't own guns, they wouldn't be able to enforce their ownership of another race. Without the barrel of a gun to hold them down, maybe the slaves would just leave.
What we do know is that countries all over the world, democracies forged by their citizens often in likeness of our own Constitution, enshrine all of our shared freedoms except the right to bear arms and the right to own another human being. And here's the kicker - all of these places are way, way, way, way, way safer places to live than here. As Daniel Day-Lewis told me yesterday, to paraphrase from memory, sometimes when you give up one liberty, you receive others in return that you could never imagine. As Lincoln, Day-Lewis was speaking of giving up the right to own other human beings, so in return we might have the liberty to be true human beings, free from blatant moral hypocrisy, a freedom many of our Founding Fathers never got to enjoy. And so by giving up our right to bear arms, we would gain something else profound, so profound no American today can enjoy it -- the right to security, to go the movies and not fear being gunned down, to send our children to elementary school and not worry about them being gunned down, to go to the mall to go Christmas shopping and not fear being gunned down. I for one am ready to make that trade. Because of the Supreme Court's 2008 ruling interpreting the 2nd Amendment as an individual right to bear arms, we will not be safe until we eliminate this nonsense from our founding document. We need to repeal the Second Amendment. Whether that can happen without some kind of civil war is another question. But with tens of thousands dying every year because of this glaring flaw in our nation's collective expression of its values, it would probably be worth it regardless.